To solve student housing crisis, Chancellor Christ turns to city

Jessica Gleason /File

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Three-quarters of UC Berkeley undergraduate students are not guaranteed housing — the lowest rate of student accommodation of all 10 UC campuses.

In conjunction with plans by the UC Board of Regents to increase enrollment in the coming years, the campus faces an ever-pressing need to provide adequate student housing. To do so, new Chancellor Carol Christ has turned to the city.

“I’ve already seen more of (Christ) than I have of (former chancellor Nicholas Dirks),” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “She’s already met several times with the mayor. I think she’s talked with most of the council members. ... Hopefully, we can come up with a list of projects to work on.”

As she steps into her new position, Christ said she hopes for a strong relationship with the city characterized by “synergy and interdependence.”

“The city is our home. … We depend upon — and also help finance — services from the city, and I hope we offer many public benefits to the city,” Christ said in a sit-down with The Daily Californian. “So I look forward to this being a very close partnership.”

As the campus deals with a lack of student housing, Christ has also been communicating with the city about how to tackle problems like homelessness — and the intersection of these two issues.

She characterized certain sites, such as the Oxford Tract, which currently serves as research land for the College of Natural Resources, and People’s Park, as “politically complex.”

Christ emphasized that it’s important to respect the historical significance of People’s Park. She has hired a social worker to help alleviate homelessness in the city and a special adviser to head the campus’s involvement with People’s Park.

Whether or not developing on these locations is worth the obstacles involved has been up for public debate.

“(People’s Park) was one location on a long list of locations. I think there are other numerous locations on the list that are actually viable and that have less obstacles,” Worthington said.

The hired social worker will start July 17 but has already been working with the city in addressing homelessness, according to Christ. She added that the campus will first develop a plan to help the homeless who live in People’s Park and then think about potentially building student housing.

There will be complications with building on almost every site the campus is looking at, according to Christ.

Christ said she has already assembled a task force with student representation to examine all the potential housing sites. This task force will determine which sites are the most promising and how the campus can provide the most affordable housing.

“We can’t build any housing until we amend our long-range development plan. I’ve had conversations with the city about that,” Christ said. “I feel so fortunate that the mayor is so excited about our adding student housing.”

Worthington said past relations between the city and campus have had ups and downs. He recalls meeting with former chancellor Chang-Lin Tien often but said he didn’t meet with Dirks as much.

Worthington said he hopes the campus will be able to build student housing as soon as possible. As the representative for District Seven — encompassing campus and parts of South Berkeley — student housing and public safety are top priorities for him. He added that he is optimistic Christ will help the city in tackling these issues.

Malini Ramaiyer is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.

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  • la di dah

    People’s Park is not really historically significant. Fifty years aint much and everyone seems to have forgotten that until UC bought that block that is home to People’s Park, it was all single family houses. This city does not show much respect to one of the oldest settlements in N. America (the Berkeley shellmound lot on 4th street). Once CoB starts showing respect to actually historical significant sites, then take a look at protecting the ‘historical significant’ of People’s Park.

  • elrod

    The mayor and his friends have their heads in Utopia and believes housing in Berkeley should follow their utopian model which discourages the developers that live in the real word.

  • Ace Backwords

    Everyone sees this for exactly what it is. Carol Christ’s phony-baloney PR sham. So UC can falsely portray themselves as “sympathetic” to the plight of the homeless, before they run all of the homeless out of People’s Park.

    • la di dah

      how many development related public hearings in Berkeley have you attended? I ask because you sound completely ignorant of the realities of housing in Berkeley.

  • Ace Backwords

    Oh and that’s a good one, isn’t it folks? The “one” social worker Christ is planning on hiring to help solve Berkeley’s homeless problem.

    I guess they’ll be cutting back on all the $20 thousand dollar dinner parties Janet Napolitano had been throwing for all of her friends to find the money in the UC budget to pay for this one social worker.

  • Charlie Chan

    A friend from UC Berkeley told me about this (Not News) news item.

    I am currently a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student and a former UC Berkeley freshman.

    UC Berkeley creates too many barriers for students to gain entry into Computer Science:
    – Many of the lower division classes I needed for computer science were either filled to capacity or closed.
    – GPA admission requirement had recently been increased.

    I transferred to Cal Poly and have not been disappointed:
    – Cal Poly’s CS classes have less than 40 people, while at UC Berkeley the number tends to be well over 100.
    – Employers seem to like Cal Poly students a little more (than UC Berkeley students, for example), because Cal Poly students learn by doing.
    – Every person I talked with has had (seniors) or will have (juniors) an internship done/lined up for the summer after junior year.
    – All of the seniors I talk with have a full time offer or plan to make a startup after they graduate.

    CalPoly SLO has a very good reputation in engineering. It does not have the research chops of the grad school at UCB, but the reputation of the undergrad education is actually better. (UCB has a reputation for underserving the undergrads in engineering, because all the faculty time is taken up with the large number of grad students.)

    • elrod

      Wrong college newspaper Charlie.

    • Steve Todd

      Never found that true in engineering!
      Maybe in computer science!

  • just bulldoze peoples park already, they are squatting on public land!

    • still trying

      The problem is UC is broke. UC cannot afford to build student housing so they blame the city.
      Here is another novel idea. Make Berkeley an upper division school. You can get lower division classes anywhere and the last 2 years at Berkeley,. You would then have more housing and space for the students.

      • can you name a prestigious university in the top 30 that does this? I dont think I can really name a university in the top 100 that even does this,..

        • still trying

          Nope, but no other university or state was foolish enough to promise a spot at their schools if you cheated enough to get good grades.

      • MetaMusic

        Bad idea

        • still trying

          sorry, the music must stop regarding overcrowding at UC. Merced is the logical choice.
          The quality at Berkeley has declined over the past decade and new ideas must be employed.

      • BerkPed

        UC being broke is a specious argument.

        UC can use Revenue Bonds to construct housing. They are repaid by the income stream of rent.

        If UC had been wiser, they would have been opening two apartment towers for students and professors in Albany Village instead of a strip mall and a care home.

        • still trying

          UC is broke when it comes to their students. They always find money somewhere to waste on questionable projects.

    • elrod

      I agree, People’s Park is ridiculous, but there are hippies hiding in the trees and they will come down to protest.

  • Ace Backwords

    Christ’s “outreach” to the homeless is a ruse. It’s nothing but a PR campaign cooked up by Christ. Theyre going to temporarily throw a bunch of social services at the street people who hang out in People’s Park. So they can then say: “See? We’ve given the bums all the help they need. So now we’re justified in running them all out of the Park. Tearing it down. And putting up housing.”

    You’re transparently fake, Christ.

    • MetaMusic

      I’d cut her some slack for now; she has been putting a lot more effort into the office than her predecessor.

      • Ace Backwords

        Anyone’s who’s “effort” entails demolishing People’s Park gets zero “slack” with me.

    • elrod

      UC is not in the business of providing social services for the city’s homeless. That’s the City of Berkeley’s responsibility when they’re not too busy tackling international issues.

      • Ace Backwords

        Yeah? Well in 2 years People’s Park will be 50 years old and declared as “landmark status.” And UC can wash their hands of the whole thing. They have zillions of other properties in Berkeley they can build housing on.

    • Marcos Hernandez

      You imply that there’s something wrong with getting the homeless out of the park. Google People’s Park Assault and see how many physical and sexual assaults occur. Bring on the bulldozers.

      • Ace Backwords

        I’ve been hanging out in People’s Park pretty much on a daily basis for the last 10 years. I doubt very much you can tell me anything about the Park that I don’t already know.

  • Kurt VanderKoi

    The UC Berkeley education model is OBSOLETE (and costly). Students are required to live in the VERY EXPENSIVE area around Berkeley and physically attend class in large OBSOLETE (and costly to maintain) lecture halls. The MODERN Distance Learning education model does not require your physical presence or large lecture halls.
    See: ASU Online

    • still trying

      I agree, considering many Cal students are already doing this. Some classes are so overcrowded, some students are told to stay at the dorms and watch the class online. People forget, Cal is the elephant in the room. Cal tells the City we need more housing but refuses to pay up for the needed infrastructure or even the construction costs for the housing. Nope, Cal needed a new football stadium and went so far into debt they may never recover. One thing is clear, Cal chose football over the students. Now the stadium can’t pay for itself, but student housing would have. Good decision making by UC. Clearly, not the critical thinking Cal keeps bragging about teaching.They dump on the City and demand the City and private parties to provide housing. There is no possible way the City or private groups can provide the needed housing just for the students, let alone the housing that is needed just to keep Berkeley healthy. Cal needs to limit enrollment. It’s that simple.

    • a berkeley degree >>>>> an asu degree >> an asu online degree

    • Professor S Freeman

      You are correct Kurt.
      UC Berkeley is really quite backward in the way the University delivers education. While just about every major university has moved many courses and degrees online, UC Berkeley is stuck in the mid twentieth century.
      See: Georgia Tech

    • MetaMusic

      Reminder: Online degrees are still only slightly more valuable than toilet paper.

      • still trying

        Well, in some cases that is what you are getting at Cal with their overcrowded classes.

    • BerkPed
    • elrod

      But how are the ASU students going to party if everyone is online?

  • still trying

    How about limiting student enrollment at Cal. I know this is a novel idea but Berkeley cannot build housing as fast as Cal is increasing enrollment. It just can’t be done Captian.

    • the university of california has a responsibility to taxpayers to educate california citizens. artificially limiting enrollment would be against its duties to the state and to the taxpaying public!

      • still trying

        It is called Merced. Which is part of UC. No where in the State charter does it say UC Berkeley. Merced is at 20% capacity. Use it.

        • MetaMusic

          Merced sucks, don’t make more people go to Merced

          • still trying

            Sorry you do not get a choice. It’s not like buying a car.

        • Marcos Hernandez

          No one wants to go to school in Merced. No one.

          • still trying

            Merced is there. It has been built. UC should say; you go to Merced or you do not get into a UC school. It’s that simple. When do people get a choice where they go? Unless you are legacy.

          • la di dah

            so your solution is to make the city of Berkeley bear the burden that belongs to the UC system?